Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sailing off into the Waikiki Sunset

The price is right for this universal dream of escape to paradise: around fifty bucks. Catamarans take off right from the beach at toddy time, 5 o'clock.

The hour-and-a-half cruises usually include all the beverages you can drink, although land lubbers want to be careful with that proposition, since being bombed and seasick at the same time is not fun. But waters are normally flat near shore Waikiki, so not to worry. The resort strip at night seen from the water is an awesome sight.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Napali: The Cliffs

Forget about driving around Kauai. Even the Army Corps of Engineers in the heat of battle during WWII got smacked by The Cliffs—Napali, the northwest quadrant of the island where a series of two- to three-thousand-foot steep ridges radiate seaward from the middle of the island. Beaches and deep valleys are accessible only by boat (and were therefore home to large villages during times of Polynesian settlement).

Most visitors seeking this wilderness drive north to road's end and embark on the notorious Kalalau Trail, a 12-mile up-and-down goat scramble that hugs the cliffs before ending at a beach and valley.

You can look down on Kalalau Valley by driving the other way around the island to road's end above the upper rim of Waimea Canyon.

A dozen or so Napali trails begin along the canyon road, including popular routes like the Awa'awapuhi, Nualolo, and Pihea trails, and lesser-known treks that go out Polihale Ridge, Miloli'i Ridge, and others. All these walks involve about ten miles round-trip and dropping down some 2,000 feet to where the escarpments end, often in places where you need to be mindful of footing. Kauai Trailblazer has details on pages 153 to 170.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Soaking up the Puna Coast

Pocketed into the Puna Coast of the Big Island is the Ahahanui Hot Pond at Puala'a County Park -- geothermally heated water 90-95 degrees, spring and ocean fed, perfect for dipping, nature's natural spa. If you're staying in Hilo, this is a great family day trip. Lifeguard on duty and picnic grounds complete the package.

How to find it? Consult the pages of your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting High on Hanalei's 'Moonshine' Trail

During Prohibition the Hawaiian booze called okolehao was distilled from ti plants along this trail that climbs to about 1,300 feet to a peak with a panoramic view of the Hanalei Valley and bay. Today the route is the Okolehao Trail into the Halelea Forest Reserve, one of the few places where humans can set foot in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, which is a short scenic drive from the town on the north shore of Kauai.

The well-marked trail begins as a road behind a historic Japanese cemetery, but then turns to a chutes-and-ladders ridge trail, less than 5 miles roundtrip, through an arboretum of Norfolk pines, ti, strawberry guava, and a thick mat of other tropical flora. From the top (you have to make sure to double-back and even drop a little to reach the actual summit) is also a point-blank look at the twin-spiked peak of Hihimanu, which means 'manta ray' in Hawaiian, but will remind some of Batman. The hike is not dangerous, though hands are required in spots near the top, and a hiking pole will help a lot on the slick-surfaces, especially on the descent. See Kauai Trailblazer pages 39 and 40 for more details.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Results are in for last weekend's Waikiki stand-up paddle event. Six hundred paddlers from around the world showed up competing for the $25,000 prize money.

Check out the video collection and results at the Quiksilver site.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Anahola, Local Style

The pointed peak in the Anahola Mountains is known as Kong, adding a fitting mythic quality to the jungled ridge. Woo-woo theorists, inspired by the primordial flora, speculate that one of the lush valleys is the Garden of Eden. Little Anahola is not your typical tourist town.

A high-percentage of Hawaiians live here, with bloodlines that can be traced into the beginnings of the nation and Anahola was one of the first places to be designated as Hawaiian Homelands
in the latter 1800s.

Tourists can find a superlative beach stroll around Anahola Bay. Though currents can be deadly when the surf's up, a shallow coral reef makes for good snorkeling. Count on palm trees for shade.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Old Kona Town

Where's the beach?

Arriving at the airport, especially on days when the vog (volcanic smog) is creeping down the barren lava fields and traffic is jammed, Kona newcomers may be disappointed with the absence of a glitzy run of sand that is normally associated with a resort area of such high repute. Don't despair. Remember that the big guy himself, King Kamehameha the Great, could have lived any where in the Hawaiian Islands and he chose to spend his final decade on the shores of Kailua-Kona.

You'll find Old-Hawaii charm remains—alongside a run of restaurants, tourist shops, and mid-level resorts along Ali'i Drive. Along the seawall on the bay is Hulihe'e Palace, now a museum, built in 1838 as a home for the Big Island's second governor, John Adams Kuakini. Across the street from the palace is Mokuaikane Church, a stone edifice with towering steeple that was built a year earlier. The church, is an upgrade of the thatched-roof model built in 1820 by Reverend Asa Thurston, who was among the first missionaries to arrive in Hawaii. On the other side of the small bay (at a great swimming beach) is Aheuna Heiau, a recreation of Kamehameha's post-conquest place of worship, dedicated to Lono, the god of peace and fertility.

Just down the palmy drive from these landmarks is Kona Inn Shopping Village, a boardwalk full of cubby-hole shops centered around the Kona Inn Restaurant, which dates from earliest days of tourism, in 1928. And a few steps from the village is Hale Halawai Park, with more shops of Waterhouse Row. This is where the sport of bodyboarding was invented and a front-row seat to watch today's surfers ride waves into Oneo Bay. (See Hawaii the Big Island Trailbazer, pages 88-90 for more details.)

Like much of the Big Island, Kona may not deliver the tropical stereotype, but it offers much more after you've taken the time to let the magic work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On the Sleeping Giant's Face

Inland from the Coconut Coast of Kauai near Kapa'a rises the familiar profile of "the Sleeping Giant," a stand-alone ridge that is the Nounou Mountain Forest Reserve. Three rural neighborhood
trailheads lead to the "forehead" (most-westerly part) of the Giant, ranging in round-trip distances from three- to seven miles and gaining from 800 feet to a grand in elevation. It's on the tourist radar, but mostly used by locals like for an exercise romp.

There's one narrow and hands-on trail section just before the top (pictured), but it's not dangerous. At a tiny saddle near the top (the Giant's "nose"), you can scramble across to the chinny-chin-chin, where a treacherous freefall awaits. Fee-fi-foe-forget it!

For the descent, you have a choice of a mauka view toward Waialeale or the big seaward vista of Wailua (also pictured). Pages 81-82 of the Kauai Trailblazer has the pros and cons of the three trailheads, plus driving descriptions.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Best Place to Snorkel on Oahu?

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, on the other side of Diamond Head from Waikiki, looks dreamy from the road above and draws more fish fans than any other venue in Hawaii. But, like the smash-bang Hollywood blockbuster that sets box office records, the bay is an example of how "most popular" doesn't translate into "the best."

Part of the problem is that Hanauma suffers from its own good looks: The pay parking lot fills up early and crowds can be a hassle, both in and out of the water. In order to protect the preserve, some areas have been restricted, an informational safety video is mandated viewing for all visitors, and fees for entry, lockers and the shuttle buses seem nitpicky. And, oh yes, the drab coral looks lifeless and sometimes fish are not copious.

But even considering the downsides, Hanauma is still worth the visit if you know how to play it right to avoid the inconveniences—see pages 89-90 of Oahu Trailblazer. OT also give details on the half-dozen or more snorkeling spots that will be more enjoyable for the independent tourist.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Here Lies Lucky (?) Lindy

At age 25 in 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh flew a one-seater plane from New York to Paris, collected a $25,000 reward for being the first to make the flight, and became for a time the most famous man in the world. "Lucky Lindy" had stepped out from the shadow of his congressman father and into a parade of limos covered with confetti.

He probably wishes time could have stopped there. Events of the remainder of his peripatetic life included the kidnap and murder of his son, an affair, accusations of being a racist and Nazi sympathizer, and dying in Hawaii of lymphoma at age 72. His unassuming grave is on the south coast of Maui at little Ho'omanu Church, on a lush, remote bluff overlooking the Pacific toward the Big Island. (See Maui Trailblazer, page 140, for details.)

On his gravestone is inscribed, "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the utttermost parts of the sea." Mission accomplished, Charles. (From this site, Lindbergh, or anyone else with eagle eyes in 1937, could've witnessed the takeoff of Amelia Earhart's flight from Oahu that vanished in the Pacific, ending her attempt to circle the globe.)